Increase in MCO violation fines justified, says criminologist

The government’s decision to increase the fine for violating regulations under the Movement Control Order is timely and just, says a top criminologist.

The Emergency (Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases) (Amendment) Ordinance 2021, published on the Federal Gazette website on Thursday, states that people who breach MCO regulations can be fined up to RM10,000 while companies can be fined up to RM50,000. The new law take effects on March 11.

Assoc Prof Datuk Dr P. Sundramoorthy said it is clear the current RM1,000 fine for non-adherence of standard operating procedures (SOPs) has failed to deter society from complying with regulations.

“We still see people who do not wear their masks properly, not registering their details or recording their temperature,” said Sundramoorthy.

“Those who disregard SOPs are allowed to enter premises. They appear to not have any social responsibility. Why can’t they provide a mask for those who claim they forgot to wear one and why do they continue to provide diluted hand sanitisers and use faulty temperature checkers?”

Sundramoorthy acknowledged there have been complaints over the increase in penalty but he pointed out many failed to understand the pandemic has resulted in over 1,000 deaths in the country to date.

“But there should not be disparity when the law is enforced. There must be discretion, especially when it comes to first-time offenders,” he said.

“The fine for first-time offenders should be between RM2,000 and RM3,000 and you only move up the scale if you are a repeat offender.”

Sundramoorthy added the fine for entities should work the same way.

“A business entity cannot be fined the same amount as an individual. The fine for entities should start from RM5,000 and it should differ for restaurants, grocery shops and factories.”

He also said people should stop giving lame excuses when they are caught for disregarding SOPs.

“All you need is a face mask. It is cheap. Practising physical distancing does not require money and buying good quality sanitisers does not cost a bomb.

“It has been a year. By now, adhering to SOPs is akin to wearing seatbelts and putting on a helmet,” he said.

Sundramoorthy admitted there had been ambiguity on the SOPs over the past year. He urged law enforcement officers to be more prudent and use their professionalism in dealing with offenders on a case-to-case basis.